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Historic Washington Park National Bank building facing demolition in Woodlawn

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The Cook County Land Bank Authority voted for redevelopment over adaptive reuse

John Morris/Chicago Patterns

Woodlawn’s historic 1924 Washington Park National Bank building could be headed for demolition. On Friday the Cook County Land Bank Authority—which acquired the neglected structure in 2017—voted in favor a redevelopment proposal that would knock down the neoclassical Albert Schwartz-design building at 6300 S. Cottage Grove Avenue instead of reusing it.

The CCLBA began a fast-tracked search for a development partner in early 2018 and issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) seeking a qualified group to purchase the crumbling building for a full, or at least partial, adaptive reuse. “We are going to save this building,” CCLBA executive director Rob Rose told neighbors at the time.

Out of three finalist proposals, the organization, ultimately opted for the one plan that did not preserve the existing building. “We testified at the meeting and implored them to rethink their options,” Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago told Curbed. “We’re obviously disappointed. We feel they’re letting down the community and city.”

The winning plan from Chicago-based developer DL3 Realty calls for building a new three-to-five-story mixed-use structure designed by FitzGerald Associates and Brook Architecture. A rendering presented at the meeting shows a plain-looking building, devoid of the architectural embellishments of its predecessor. The new structure may include a University of Chicago tenant, a bank, coworking space, and cafe, according to Miller.

The Washington Park National Bank building was named one of the city’s most endangered buildings by Preservation Chicago in 2016. The vacant 95-year-old limestone structure is in poor shape, especially after a large skylight above its lobby collapsed. The basement has since filled with water and a tree is growing out of the roof.

Recent investments in Woodlawn have resulted in new transit-oriented housing and a grocery store and many residents are optimistic about the potential effects of the upcoming Obama Presidential Center. But for all of its positive momentum, the community has more than enough empty land to justify knocking down historically significant buildings, argue preservationists.